back to article Microsoft: You own the best software keyboard there is. Please let us buy it

There are lots of software keyboards for smartphones and tablets alike, but one stands head and shoulders above the rest… However you can't have it. Last year, Microsoft bought Nuance for just shy of $20 billion, mainly for its voice-to-text tools. Nuance also owned Swype, which it killed off in 2018. Microsoft, meanwhile, …

  1. FIA Silver badge

    Somewhere, deep in the bowls of Redmond an alarm has gone off.

    It’s labelled: ‘Somebody wants to pay us money, by choice’

    Everyone is confused. It’s never happened before.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I would have paid for the rumoured under-the-bonnet improvements to W7 - that didn't change the licensing or GUI or add snooping telemetry. Legacy W7 and Linux Mint do what I need now.

    2. steelpillow Silver badge

      "It’s never happened before." - or rather, not often.

      When they revamped the Word macro language back in the day, they naturally dumped support for the old one. UK Ministry of Defence had invested millions over recent years in creating desktop productivity tools using it. Suddenly, it all broke. How much MILITARY-SCALE(!!!) budget cash would M$ require to reinstate its support in Word? Nothing doing came the reply, we have moved on.

      Of course in MoD a drop in desktop productivity is hardly noticeable and might even be construed as a good thing. But the state of MoD is not Redmond's fault.

      They are not confused, they are just trying to decide which coffee machine to use next. In five minutes they will have forgotten what all the fuss was about.

    3. boatsman

      pay microsoft for a *working* product.. we don't have that... must be hoax...

      its just a contradiction in terminis... working product and microsoft = !Error!

      lolol

      but its true. swiftkey is the only one worth using... never saw swype, but it sounds good :-)

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Trollface

    "just take our money and bring Swype's best bits back"

    What, and do something useful ? No can do.

    Borkzilla still hasn't found the next useless idea to toy with, or it's looking at creating yet another set of emojis nobody asked for and hardly anyone will use.

    1. ShadowSystems Silver badge

      Re: "just take our money and bring Swype's best bits back"

      They're more likely to see just how badly they can screw it up, charge a subscription fee to use it claiming it will get frequent updates, then assign a troop of dyslexic myopic dyspeptic Howler Monkies to do the coding for all future releases.

      Something about clowns, monkies, flying feces, and the Peter Principle? =-Jp

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: "just take our money and bring Swype's best bits back"

        Quote

        "then assign a troop of dyslexic myopic dyspeptic Howler Monkies to do the coding for all future releases."

        So the regular staff then?

    2. EricB123 Bronze badge

      Re: "just take our money and bring Swype's best bits back"

      You don't like the eggplant?

  3. localzuk Silver badge

    More realistic

    They'll bring back Swype, but with Swiftkey's swiping capabilities and Swype's prediction capabilities. Worst of both worlds.

    1. The Boojum

      Re: More realistic

      Historic user of Swype and then SwiftKey.

      I have to say that I disagree about SwiftKey's prediction being good. I've finally abandoned it because I was fed up of the completely ludicrous suggestions it came up with far more often than not. I don't remember what Swype's were like, just a sense that I used to have far less trouble 'then' than I did 'now'.

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: More realistic

        "psychic[psychotic] keyboard."

        My Xperia had whatever bog-standard keyboard there was - then, after a system update, ended up with Swiftkey being the only option. I probably wouldn't have noticed, but only when I went into the settings to try to tame the thing did I notice that it was Microsoft Swiftkey. Still make more mistakes on entry that what I used to

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: More realistic

          Hmm. I'm no great user of text on a mobile, but I do use Duolingo in German, Spanish (and English, of course) and I note that the predictive text with swiftkey will generally suggest an easy 80% of the correct answers to a translation challenge - often without hitting any key, but almost always after an initial key is pressed.

          Since Duolingo's translations are rarely things one might expect to come up with in normal speech - "My dog is unemployed and has only one eye" - I have wondered how much phoning home to the mother ship is going on.

          It doesn't seem to care which language I'm typing, apart from its inability to generate umlauts and other diacritics.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: More realistic

      Given the way Windows is being developed, I expect they are more likely to remove Swiftkey from W10/W11 due to lack of use and well it's more Apple-like(*)...

      I like MS's website [ https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/swiftkey ] not a mention of Swiftkey for Windows...

      (*) The continued absence of a swype-like keyboard bundled with iOS is still surprising given Apple's legendary focus with iOS on ease of use and user experience.

  4. Melon Usk

    Just one feature please

    Thanks for listing some of your favourite features, some of those are new to me.

    If Swype isn't coming back, and I'm stuck with GBoard on a new phone, all I ask for is ONE feature from Swype – when the cursor is in a word, just press the Swype key to select the word. I don't have the coordination, especially when walking, to double tap precisely on one word.

    OK, maybe another feature request from Swype. When entering a string of numbers without having a dedicated number row, you can press the letters that have the numbers, and one of the autocomplete words will be your string of numbers - for example, typing qwerty will offer 123456. It saves just that little bit of time vesrus long-pressing each key for the number.

    LOOK, JUST GIVE US SWYPE BACK!!11@@!!!

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Just one feature please

      Why would you want to be stuck with slurpy gboard? If you're going to be stuck with a keyboard, there's openboard.

      1. AJ MacLeod

        Re: Just one feature please

        The problem is that many of us use swiping to type nowadays as it can be vastly quicker than pecking at individual non-keys, and virtually none of the open source options support this.

        I've been trying to use AnySoftKeyboard for the past month or two which does, but sadly it's pretty rubbish compared to Gboard etc - inefficient enough possibly to force me back to being spied on by Gboard again.

  5. Phil 54

    You forgot the best part about Swype: cut, paste, and select all shortcuts

  6. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Android

    Other than stopping Apple have a complete monopoly on mobile - do Microsoft actually care about Android, or mobile generally ?

    1. Tams

      Re: Android

      Only half-arsedly as is the norm.

      To the extent they make a multimillion investment in the Duo line and yet half-arse it.

  7. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    They'll bring it back, but with a fiendishly complex interface that differs depending on whether you've logged in with your Microsoft account, or with your Microsoft 365 account with the same exact address, also at Microsoft.

    If you've used your Microsoft 365 account, certain Swype actions won't be available unless an extra security setting is accessed through powershell, for most people, sometimes. This is for security.

    1. EricB123 Bronze badge

      Thanks, I feel better now

      Oh, and all this time I thought it was only me with this problem.

      1. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

        Re: Thanks, I feel better now

        It's Microsoft with the problem mate!

  8. Neil Woolford

    Any thoughts on the MessageEase keyboard?

    I'm not saying it is better or worse than any other particular keyboard.

    But, while I'm a reasonably proficient and fast touch typist on a standard querty board, I find the querty layout on a screen is just bizarre and difficult to work.

    MessageEase uses a completely non-querty grid with swiping and circling motions.

    I find it pretty damned good, but have never knowingly met anyone else who uses it.

    Are you out there? Or did you try it and decide against using it?

    1. Piro Silver badge

      Re: Any thoughts on the MessageEase keyboard?

      I love it, and have been using it for years.

      Many of the things people are complaining they miss from Swype are in MessagEase.

  9. Killfalcon

    Swype is probably the thing I miss most about having a Windows Phone (other than websites giving up on forcing me to an app because no-one made windowsphone apps, oh, and the Nokia Lumia's camera).

    I figured some of the issue was just me not adjusting to the change instantly, but yeah, it really was *better*.

    1. Falmari Silver badge

      Word Flow

      @Killfalcon The keyboard on the windows phone was Word Flow developed by MS. But you are right it was an excellent keyboard, both for it's swiping and predictive text.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You can still use it!

    Still using Swype. If you bought it from Google Play, you can still find it and it still works with latest version of Android. Just make sure you disable all the sync..

    But, I definitely wish Swpe was still a thing, under development, and being updated....

  11. CovenStine
    Pint

    Bring it baaaaack!

    Please. PLEASE continue development of Swype!

    The swype-to-activate copy, paste, cut, Numpad, Arrows, Capitals, quote-space, no-spaces, alternative selection, typed word caps-change... the list is not short, and the swype engine is SO MUCH BETTER than any other keyboard available. Couple it with SwiftKey's Prediction? you'd never need to do word replacement, but this is accurate without 'learning' your 'voice' style.

    Hands down the best thing I"m still carrying on my S21 that I bought on my gen-1 'Galaxy S'

    Especially since, as a disabled person, I can only operate my phone one-handed, any you can be sure I'm not going to be tapping on the screen holding an S21 Ultra and walking... but Swyping? That's doable.

    1. druck Silver badge

      Re: Bring it baaaaack!

      Please don't continue to develop Swype. The first version I used on my Galaxy S was fantastic, it seemed to know what I was typing before I did. The next few updates were cosmetic and made it look great with themes etc. However, at a certain point the prediction started getting worse and worse with each upgrade, I was actually glad when they abandoned it, as it hasn't degraded any further. Despite all that it is still better than any of the alternatives I've tried.

  12. rlightbody

    Swype was AWESOME!!!

    I LOVED Swype.

    After years of using GBOARD I have not come close to the accuracy I achieved with Swype in a month. I've tried Swiftkey and it was hopeless too.

    Couldn't believe it when they stopped it, and I think of it every day when gboard gets a word wrong.

  13. fuzzie
    Unhappy

    No new installations?

    Talk about a blast from the past. I last used it on my old Nokia N8 and then when I (had to eventually) move to Android it just wasn't available. Sony's keyboard had a reasonable swipe built in and then they moved to Swiftkey which was a bit better at it. Unfortunately even though "Swype keyboard" is in the Play store search suggestions/autocomplete, it doesn't show up under any of the results. Does mean you can only still use it if you (once) bought it?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: No new installations?

      Yes, but you can get the non-India trial and free India versions from apkmirror, if you trust apkmirror.

  14. Updraft102

    I don't use keyboards that don't actually have keys or boards, but I have long been mentally asking MS to take my money for Streets and Trips. It was IMO the best of the consumer mapping programs for PC, and they won't take my money for that either. I use 2013, the most recent version, in a perpetual trial version in a VM (where I roll it back to the not-yet-run state after each use). It's the best I can do when the ability to pay for it does not exist.

  15. To Mars in Man Bras!
    Alert

    Android Users - Tried Yandex Keyboard?

    I use Yandex keyboard on Android.

    I actually find its predictions better than the competition. But that's damning with faint praise. Without exception, every keyboard I've tried on mobile has had me wanting to throw my phone through the window half the time. especially when [as pointed out by others] they will all ignore a word you type multiple times a day and instead insert some random word so irrelevant it makes you shake your head in disbelief.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Android Users - Tried Yandex Keyboard?

      So you can be sure all your data goes to Mr Putin?

      1. To Mars in Man Bras!
        Facepalm

        Re: Android Users - Tried Yandex Keyboard?

        Oh dear. Why does someone always feel the need to make that tediously predictable quip, whenever a Russian company is mentioned. Or similar about the CCP when a Chinese company is mentioned?

        Because no US company would ever spy on its users would it?

        Besides which, given my lack of military or industrial significance, neither Mr. Putin or the CCP are ikely to be in the least bit interested in my humdrum existence --unlike all those companies in the good ol' US of A which see my personal data as ammunition in their unending attempts to part me from my money.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Android Users - Tried Yandex Keyboard?

      I'll try Yandex, haven't found a good replacement yet for the Samsung keyboard on mine which does the whole random word thing plus the added bonus of if you catch half a pixel of the delete key while swiping it will delete half your message.

      Utterly infuriating.

  16. Tom 7 Silver badge

    That was dissapointing

    when they said software keyboard I was hoping for a keyboard for writing software! Which all the ones I've tried on a phone are pretty shit at. And as for the predictive text, it makes it almost impossible.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: That was dissapointing

      I don't think you'll ever find a keyboard you like for that. There are phone keyboards for technical stuff, which just have the extra punctuation on the main keyboard. Adding extra things like syntax and variable prediction would take even more screen real estate, and writing code needs quite a lot of that for other stuff. Phones just are ill-suited for writing code, and I don't think a different keyboard organization will fix the reasons why.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: That was dissapointing

        I have a feeling it might be possible to write language dependent keyboards. Code is ideal for some predictive text and I used to use swiping commands 40 years ago so it should be possible to come up with some multi-fingered commands for inputting language features. I guess I'll need to write it on the PC to start with!

  17. nautica Bronze badge
    Boffin

    What am I missing here?

    This is a "keyboard" which is implemented in (that is, created by...) SOFTWARE!

    What's the big deal?

    Somebody, who is bitching about the lack of a really great SOFTWARE KEYBOARD, either write the NGK (Next Great Keyboard), or cause it to be done.

    Just ask the software gurus, or, better yet, their managers: software can solve all problems; it can even build a new airplane.

    Does 737 MAX ring a bell?

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: What am I missing here?

      I expect all these desirable keyboard features are patented though. By Swift and Swype.

  18. ecofeco Silver badge

    Proving yet again

    ... that people who say corporations are sending us their best products are naive... at best.

    Who say that corporations would never deliberately buy and retire superior technologies, are also naive... at best.

    Who also say, markets are purely demand driven so corporations MUST sell better products to stay competitive, are naive at best.

    See a trend here? And this is just example... 546,234 of our fine and lovely capitalist consumer world.

    1. Tams

      Re: Proving yet again

      Eh. Nuance gave up on Swype before they were bought.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    [...] "or "wont" from "won't" [...]

    Someone in probably the 1930s published a chronological series of books purporting to be autobiographical based on their years growing up in England. It was interesting that the contractions used "wont" and "dont" - always omitting the apostrophe. That made me wonder if it was down to the author/printer*** - or a fashion at the time. Never thought to notice if any possessives also were contracted.

    ***As a student, broadcaster Robert Robinson had dealings with the Oxford(?) publishing house - which he said specialised in salacious material to supplement their earnings from academic publications. It is possible the typesetting and printing was done in another European country.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Wiktionary thinks that "dont" is a recorded misspelling, and "wont" is a different word from "won't". It quotes Lewis Carroll using "wo'n't", but Lewis Carroll admitted that he was being peculiar, here:

      https://www.hoboes.com/FireBlade/Fiction/Carroll/Sylvie/Concluded/preface/

  20. Scott 26

    Like the author, I'm a long time user of Swype - one of my few paid apps, and every new phone, it seems to magically appear. I hate using swiftkey on my wife's phone - just feels so clunky in comparison

  21. Peete

    I want Undo

    Microsoft paid $20B for the speech to text software?! I've used it on windows 10 virtual keyboard, it's a total waste of time.

    I don't know why people rave about SwiftKey but Swype was definitely better than GBoard in accuracy and functionality.

    One thing that is missing from both is undo. I can't understand why. What do these developers have against undo?

    It's so easy to implement and it's crucial sometimes.

  22. Tams

    I do like Swiftkey more than Gboard (especially after Gboard's recent update), but I'm in somewhat of a niche and like to use Gboard's Japanese handwriting input.

    Swiftkey doesn't have Japanese handwriting support and likely never will (as Microsoft translate doesn't either - Windows has an IME for it though, so Microsoft have had the data for it for years).

    I'd use Swiftkey and Gboard's Japanese handwriting keyboard together if only Microsoft would make switching between different company's keyboards quick. Instead it hijacks the keyboard and you have to go digging into the settings to change it.

    And Gboard does allow quick switching to different company's keyboards. You just can't quickly switch back.

  23. SnOOpy168

    Erm, is there an Open-source version of this? Or something very close to Apple's iOS keyboard?

    using Android 11 smartphone.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ugh

    Ugh. I've never understood why anybody would want that atrocity.

    The only reason I'm going to swipe to a different character on a phone is because my finger landed on the wrong character in the first place. With that abomination I'd not only not be able to slide my finger to the correct character and get it, I'd have to hit delete twice to remove the correct character and the wrong character, try again, and then probably have to hit delete a few times again. That is, if I'd actually managed to hit delete.

    It's unusable. Take your broken keyboard and shove it up your backside.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ugh

      Sounds like you can't adapt.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    works with passwords, too

    I've continued using Swype for the last several years after it was discontinued, mainly because it's the fastest way I've found to enter sentence-like passwords on Android. You can't swipe in password fields in any other keyboard apps, as far as I can tell.

  26. Twilight

    I have an iPhone but just found that SwiftKey is available. I may give it a try. Apparently Swype was available but got pulled when it was discontinued (so can't buy it since I didn't before)...

    Generally I think iPhone autocorrect and predictions are pretty decent except for two issues that massively bug me:

    * It almost always uses "ate" when I want "are"

    * It almost always uses negative contractions when I want the positive ("couldn't" vs "could")

  27. Piro Silver badge

    MessagEase

    I've been using it for years. One handed typing is how I like to roll. It's older than the alternatives, but maybe a little less known these days, but I'm extremely used to it, it gets installed immediately on new phones.

  28. Handlebar

    I use Swiftkey, but spend most of my time removing erroneous commas it seems to add, after, every other, word. Have no, idea, why it does, it.

  29. TobesEtc

    I'm also a former Swype user. Although I can find Swype in my Google Play library, I cannot install it (says it's not available). Is there a way around that?

  30. Raphael

    Swiftkey is still my default Android keyboard. I can't recall exactly when I bought it, but If I recall correctly I started using it on my original Galaxy S.

  31. FrJackHackett

    Swiftkey is not what it was...

    I use Swiftkey and have done for probably 10+ years. A few years back, I started noticing it seemed to be going downhill rather badly. It would randomly delete words I'd just typed and occasionally I'd type a word only to look up and see it was total gibberish e.g. I'd see dsczkudjr instead of the word gibberish! Some of the predictions were miles off what I was looking for. And then, one day, I noticed it no longer said SwiftKey on the space bar; it now said Microsoft Swiftkey. 'Ahhhh!' I thought, 'That explains it!' I've now set my expectations accordingly i.e. at rock bottom.

    So be careful what you wish for: if they bring back Swype, you can be sure it will not be the Swype you remember. Nostalgia is not what it used to be, after all.

  32. SpamuelBeckett

    I remember buying Swype back in the day, I really enjoyed it, but when Gboard gained similar functionality I dont think i reinstalled it when moving to a new phone.

    Might give it another shot.

    If you've bought it, you need to go to your purchases and you can navigate to it there. I had to scroll all the way back to July 2013!

  33. AIBailey

    I'm probably the only one here...

    ...but I'd actually like to see a decent, no-frills reliable T9 keyboard for Android.

    My fat thumbs mean that I definitely rely a lot on auto correction and word prediction, but the muscle memory that I built up working my way through the ranks of early non-smart phones means that a T9 keyboard is still probably the fastest way for me to write a message.

  34. Captain_Cretin

    Missing 6 words (based on historical precident)

    Please let us buy it - so we can *uck it up.

  35. Efer Brick

    In the last couple of weeks

    I have attached my resume for your reference and hope to hear from you soon as I am currently working on the techno gym kit for the rest of the week but I will be back from the ancestral lands and I will be back from the ancestral lands and the rest of the week but will be back from Tuesday morning for the rest I will be back

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